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Jean Jullien's "La Plage"

The French artist's cheeky look at beach culture in a London solo show

by Graham Hiemstra
on 12 September 2013

Skilled in a sundry of creative practices, multi-talented French artist Jean Jullien is perhaps best known for his work in graphic design, which he studied at both Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art. Since moving to London eight years ago, he's been busy building up an extensive portfolio of commercial and personal work, which is often bound by simplified silhouettes, a modest color palette and a single cheeky theme. In the case of "La Plage"—Jullien's solo show opening tonight at Beach London gallery—his sharp eye is focused on the shoreline and the amusing scenarios that happen by the sea. "When you think about it, it's a pretty odd environment in terms of social boundaries," he observes. "Yet everyone is as free as a bird."


Jullien's two-dimensional aesthetic perfectly complements the inherently basic nature of beach landscapes. He tells us, "I love the beach for how minimal it is; sand, sea, sky and skin. It's very soft and yet very colorful, so it was important for me to try to explore that graphically." The upshot of this visual rumination is a series of pared-down yet vibrant images laden with a subtle sense of humor.

Jean-Jullien-London-Beach-2.jpg Jean-Jullien-Beach-London-3.jpg

After wrapping a double show of paintings in Paris earlier this summer, for "La Plage" Jullien chose to restrict himself to just prints—done initially with brush on paper, then digitally processed to enhance the colors. He also tasked himself with cutting down on his characteristic use of black outlines. "It's important for me to try something new with each show. So for 'La Plage' I've tried to get rid of one of my biggest comfort zones—the line," Jullien explains. Rather than banish black ink altogether, he assigned it a specific duty: "The ones with lines tell stories, gags; where the ones without lines tend to be more discreet—something I found very tricky, but very rewarding." Whether obvious or merely hinted at, these cleverly illustrated stories are so tightly executed they immediately resonate with anyone who's spent some time in sandy surroundings.


"I draw a lot on the beach, I love how naked it all gets," admits Jullien. Few locales seem to offer such a heavily concentrated source of inspiration, especially for someone who appreciates the quirks of human interaction and anatomy as Jullien does. "It's great to draw; short, tall, fat, skinny bodies, the way light and shadows go against each other with such audacity and the changing of colors as the sun sets—it's a drawer's dream." jean-jullien-beach2.jpg

"Le Plage" will be on view through 29 September at Beach London gallery. For a deeper look at Jullien's work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Install images by Karen Day, prints by Jean Jullien

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